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Video Game Preservation and Copyright TPMs Explorer


Screenshot from the Explorer, showing prevalence of TPMs in video game machines from 1970-2023.

Screenshot from the Explorer, showing prevalence of TPMs in video game machines from 1970-2023.
Link to interactive resource:



This resource was funded by Knowledge Rights 21 as part of the project, ‘Evidence on Technological Protection Measures: impact on research, education and preservation’. The Principal Investigator is Prof Kristofer Erickson, with Co-Investigators Martin Kretschmer, Anthony Rosborough, Ula Furgal, Victoria Stobo, and Marcella Favale. Software and database by CREATe data developer Felix Rodriguez Perez.

The purpose of this project was to collect new data to study whether presence of copyright TPMs on video game hardware hinders preservation and research. The data comprise 14,300 electronic devices (mostly arcade machines and consoles) from 1970-2023. The study focuses on the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) project, the longest active open-source emulation project. The data are combined from several sources: the MAME 0.258 ROM set from Internet Archive, the MAME developer Wiki, and a volunteer online database from Italy, which contains metadata about emulation compatibility. We data mined the repository to find instances where MAME developers encountered copyright security TPMs when trying to preserve old games.

The interactive explorer allows users to visualise the expanding compatibility list of preserved games in MAME. With the plot selector set to “protection types”, users can see the prevalence of TPMs among game releases in any given year, and an indication of the type of protection used. “Recovery used” shows the approach taken by the developers to circumvent any TPMs encountered. Finally, “Bootleg” shows whether bootleg (pirate) versions existed for any given title.  Three different time scales are selectable: date of original release, date of inclusion into MAME, and the difference in time between those two dates.  Further statistical analysis will examine whether the presence of TPMs caused any significant delay in preservation for machines that were protected, to measure the social cost of TPMs in the context of long-term preservation. Published outputs will be linked below as they become available (last updated March 2024).



Related Outputs and Resources:

TPMs project funding press release

TPMs survey: libraries and researchers